Karkamis, Turkey – In what is usually a crowded space filled with Syrian families eager to return home, the area around the Turkish border gate of Karkamis was empty.
On Thursday, Karkamis, which links Turkey to the Syrian cities of Jarablus and al-Bab, saw people passing through from the opposite direction.
A translator at the border who facilitates the entry and exit of Syrians told Al Jazeera that there are 200 to 300 individuals who usually choose to voluntarily return to Syria on a daily basis.
“We see families from various areas in Syria who want to go back every day,” he said.
After signing relevant documents, those who wish to leave must hand over identity cards, known as “kimlik”, which grants them the right to reside in Turkey.
Signing the paper prevents from returning to Turkey for five years.
But over the past week, Syrian families who were in Syria for long holidays quickly returned due to the unrest. They witnessed the effects of the Turkish-led military operation in northeast Syria which has been paused after the United States and Turkey announced a five-day ceasefire.
Some of the people Al Jazeera spoke to left the country earlier than scheduled, citing inflation and a fear of the return of government control.
In al-Bab, while basic necessities such as water and electricity were unavailable, other costs of living were simply “unaffordable”, one man said.
The pause in Turkey’s operations is meant to grant Kurdish-led forces in the region a window to withdraw 30 kilometres (18.5 miles) south of the border, and away from the so-called “safe zone” Ankara wants to establish inside Syria.
Launched on October 9, the aim of the operation was to clear the region of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers “terrorists” linked to Kurdish separatists on its soil.